The “UNCHARTED” is a project mixing exploration mountaineering, historical research and mapping in the most remote corners of Patagonia. As we will explore land and climb mountains where no one has ever been before, we are proud to be part of this tremendous project.
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A glimpse of the preliminary map of Cordillera de Darwin by the “UNCHARTED” project.
And here is the interview we made with the famous Chilean mountaineer Camilo Rada, one of the persons in charge of UNCHARTED:
- What is the magical thing about the area of Tierra del Fuego? Why are people attracted to it and spending their time in the southernmost part of South America?
Curiosity and Adventure are two of the big driving forces of human kind, and both have made many people to take the journey to the extremes, the polar regions. If you go North in Europe, Asia or America, the roads spread out to many ends. But if you go South in America, the inhabited continent that reach closest to the Antarctic, all the roads converge in taking you to one single and charming end: Tierra del Fuego.
This fact in addition to its isolation, superb geography and ferocious weather, have put this place in the sight of the most extraordinary explorers, who have enriched its mystic with the most fabulous adventure tales.
- Eric Shipton, the famous British explorer, described the land as “land of tempest” and elaborated on the hazardous weather conditions numerous times? How do you see them as a local from Punta Arenas?
Unfortunately I’m not Punta Arenas’ local, but I’ve been there enough to have an opinion on this and also have the perspective to have been risen up in a city with milder weather, where there is no need for municipalities to put rope lines downtown to avoid pedestrians to be blown away by wind gust funneling between buildings.
Weather in Western Patagonia is definitely wild, very wild, even modern forecast can give you now a good overall idea, the actual weather at human scale is completely unpredictable, changing several time a day and highly dependent on surrounding topography, but usually dominated by strong westerly winds that if you spend a month around you will easily find yourself unable to walk in several moments due to its force. In addition to the wind, persistent clouds, rain and lots of moisture in all its form complete the ingredients of Patagonian weather.
But at the end, it is the ultimate source of Patagonian charm, making it so mysterious, covering the mountains with dense dark green forest, beryllium blue glaciers and ice encrusted summits. And if you are blessed with a clear day, you feel extremely privileged, overwhelm by its beauty and then you irremediably fell in love with it.
- Tierra del Fuego is still a place of many unclimbed peaks, are there any reasons for this circumstance besides the bad weather in your opinion?
Yes, the isolation, lack of information, lack of logistics and low success rate. All making it much more complex, challenging and committing.
- You made the winter ascent of the well-known Monte Sarmiento in 2013, which difficulties did you face during the project and how does it differ from a summer-ascent?
Just to get there was great challenge, we are land animals and being rolling in a small sailboat in the southern seas was difficult, at more than one point the expedition seemed to fell apart before setting foot on the mountain. Then the weather was a key difficulty, even we were blessed by good weather the summit day, we had to fight hard to be that day at high camp ready to go climbing. We were thrown flat to the ground many times by the wind and, at one point, we had to change plans and dig an ice cave to get shelter from the storm.
Then, the climb was also challenging, and committing, as we didn’t knew the chosen route was feasible until we were most of the way up and 100% committed to it.
- Do you see any potential in an increase of expeditions like Project Fireland and what are the possible impacts on the environment?
Yes, I’m sure expeditions like Project Fireland will increase in the future, as there is no many places left on Earth as Tierra del Fuego, and the thirst for true adventures is as high as ever. Buy even any human activity have an environmental impact, in the case of Tierra del Fuego, any negative impact from expeditions like Project Fireland is largely overweighted by the benefit of rising awareness of the importance of this place.
If I, as local, argue with the local government against authorizing salmon farms in the fjords of Tierra del Fuego, saying it is a one-of-a-kind place in the world, I won’t have much credibility, but if the same is said or supported by people that have traveled half of the world to experience this place, then the argument gain much more weight.
- In Europe, there is an ongoing discussion about the role of the Alpine Associations setting up the infrastructure in remote parts of the Alps and therefore destroying the last wild parts
No, I don’t think so. We don’t have a “mountain infrastructure” culture, if you go to the mountains it is assumed that you take your tent, your food and go self sufficient, not relying in any infrastructure. You can count with the fingers the number of mountain huts in Chile, and no one have services or fees to be paid, they are very basic.
And by seen how the outdoors ethics evolve, I doubt anyone will be putting much infrastructure in mountains.
Tourism is another thing, as many wild places are not in the mountains, and there have being projects to put lodges or hotels in pristine places, like one in Agostini Fjord that even approved was never built. I think that thing like that will happen at some point, I don’t like it but I won’t fight against it. I’m more worried about salmon farms or coal mines like in Riesco Island, that’s a very different level of impact.
- How do you value the contribution of Project Fireland to the exploration of this part of Tierra del Fuego?
I love it. It is great to see enthusiastic people coming with respect and willing to have a fair play in the Fuegian mountains. And is even better when they go for the real adventure surveying untrodden ground and helping to know the beauties of those amazing places. In addition Project Fireland have been from the begin willing and happy to share the knowledge they have gain of the area, offering it to UNCHARTED, a initiative that hopes to gather, sort and share that knowledge with all Patagonian enthusiasts.
- What were the reasons for coming up with this idea?
Mainly just love and interest for the place. But reinforced by the realization that the history and heritage of one of the most beautiful and wild parts of the world was getting lost in time, and the fact that that awareness about the value of this area was key to keep it protected.
- What is your next personal mountaineering goal in Tierra del Fuego?
We never know! But the Eastern end appeal us a lot. We have an almost endless wish list!
But our next expedition will probably head further north, to the Western edge of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field.